Dave Donnelly reports from Tallaght Stadium
It’s a case of job done for the Republic of Ireland as they kicked off their Euro 2021 qualification campaign with a 2-0 victory over Montenegro, but it was a far from convincing performance.
Tyler Toland gave Tom O’Connor’s side the ideal start with a seventh-minute piledriver but the hime side could only add one goal to the tally as Katie McCabe converted a second-half penalty.
The visitors set out their stall early to put eleven women behind the ball and frustrate the hosts, having been turned over 10-0 by top seeds Germany three days earlier.
Ireland had beaten Montenegro 9-0 the last time they visited Tallaght in qualification for Euro 2017 and it looked like a repeat was on the cards when Toland found the target early on.
The new Manchester City signing found herself in acres of space on the edge of the box and took a touch before firing a low shot past Ivana Cabarkapa at her near post.
That should have been the signal for Ireland to kick on and boost their goal difference, but that gear-change never materialised, and the home side meandered for much of the first half.
McCabe sent a hopeful shot spiralling over the bar and Denise O’Sullivan saw her effort blocked after Harriet Scott’s penalty appeals were turned down.
Ireland could have doubled their lead in injury time at the end of the first half as McCabe’s corner was punched into the air by Cabarkapa but Louise Quinn couldn’t turn home at the back post.
Heather Payne replaced Claire O’Riordan at the break and took up an attacking role on the right and she almost had an immediate impact as she cut the ball back from the endline.
The ball missed both attack and defence and fell perfectly for the late-arriving Toland and she should have doubled her tally, but she got under the ball and lofted her shot high over the bar.
McCabe’s set-pieces were Ireland’s main source of chances and another of a succession of free kicks around the box saw Quinn head directly at the keeper.
The captain got her chance to make it two from the spot as Jadranka Pavicevic handled in the box, and she sent Cabarkapa the wrong way from 12 yards.
Montenegro’s only real chance arrived with 16 minutes remaining as captain Sladjana Bulatovic cut in from the right and took aim at goal, but her low shot was easily covered by an underworked Marie Hourihan.
McCabe should have made it three late following industrious work from Rianna Jarrett, but the Arsenal winger couldn’t turn her low cross inside the near post from close range.
And Cabarkapa was at her best moments later to deny Quinn’s header, again from McCabe’s corner, reaching high to claw the ball out of the sky and it remained 2-0 at the finish.
Republic of Ireland: Marie Hourihan; Claire O’Riordan (Heather Payne 46), Diane Caldwell (Claire Walsh 76), Louise Quinn, Harriet Scott; Niamh Fahey (Megan Connolly 81), Tyler Toland, Denise O’Sullivan; Jess Gargan, Katie McCabe, Rianna Jarrett.
Subs not used: Grace Moloney (gk), Eabha O’Mahony, Chloe Singleton, Eleanor Ryan Doyle, Amber Barrett, Stephanie Roche.
Montenegro: Ivana Cabarkapa; Aleksandra Popovic, Maja Saranovic, Tatjana Djurkovic, Jadranka Pavicevic, Darija Djukic; Nadja Stanovic (Marija Vukcevic 90+2), Sladjana Bulatovic, Jasna Djokovic (Jelena Karlicic 64), Dzenita Ramcilovic; Armisa Kuc (Tamara Bojat 82).
Subs not used: Ines Obradovic (gk), Milica Knezevic (gk), Sanja Nedic, Marija Maras, Jelena Vujadinovic, Helena Bozic.
Booked: Aleksandra Popovic (41), Jadranka Pavicevic (69), Nadja Stanovic (90+1).
Referee: Catarina Campo (Portugal).
Extratime.ie Player of the Match: Denise O’Sullivan (Republic of Ireland).